The Third Order: “The Tides of Fortune” (Tenth in the Series)

By Hadrian McKeggan

Published May 26, 2001

Gul Daned looked out, hopelessly, at the Federation fleet. “Oh my...” He stuttered.

“Charge all weapons, and open fire!”

“The other ships are responding, sir. They agree to your command of this task force.” Ranad reported. “Good. Ranad, order the fleet into a V-formation and pull back behind Uptok Nor.” Ranad raised his eyebrows, but snapped to work. Darek’s plans had seemed to work before, and he most certainly didn’t want to get at Darek’s bad side in any case. Quickly, the task force fell behind the station — as the station unleashed a volley of torpedoes as Darek had predicted. Being the command centre of an entire order, Uptok Nor was designed with multiple phaser banks and torpedo launchers which the mining stations like Terok Nor did not have. The weapons shot out of the battlestation, reducing two Federation vessels to rubble in a mighty explosion. The remaining thirteen Federation warships shot back, and in force. Rippling from the hulls of the mighty peacekeepers were photon torpedoes and phasers, which bore down on Uptok Nor like the plague, smacking dead on to the station, destroying the frontal shields. “Now Ranad!” Darek snapped. The five Galor-class warships came up from behind the station, phasers and photons firing in a counter. Two more Federation starships fell victim to the fire, exploding from the pressure. Another volley from Uptok Nor supported, but the Federation vessels anticipated and swerved to avoid, unleashing another barrage themselves. “Withdraw!” Darek ordered, not a retreat but all part of his carefully engineered hit-and-run plan. As he predicted, the Federation vessels focused their fire on the Galor warship which appeared to be the leader, and she went up in flames. The station was hit as well, photons slicing Upper Pylon Three off the station as if slicing cake. Darek got off his chair walked over to Ranad’s panel, peering over the frightened Glinn’s back to confirm what he already suspected. “Ranad, send to Gul Evat of Ghamok: Maneuver your task force to these —” Darek typed in data at the panel “coordinates.” With that, Darek walked back to his chair, slumping onto it and evaluating, as always, the situation. “Message issued sir.” Ranad reported.

“Good. Z minus ten-thousand meters.” Darek ordered. “Then dead ahead, and Z plus ten-thousand meters.”

“Yes sir.” Ranad complied.

Another barrage streaked out from the task force, smashing through the outer ring of Uptok Nor and tearing off a chunk. Captain Keogh observed what was once a station rapidly becoming space rubble. “Captain, the Galor-class warships are going underneath the station.” The First Officer of the Odyssey dutifully reported. Keogh got an eerie flashback from an earlier confrontation. When, out of the blue, Galor-class warships had streaked up at him from beneath and nearly blew the Odyssey out of the sky. It only took a glance at his First Officer to know that he was thinking the same thing. “Commander, hail our two escorts to follow and inform the fleet we will be breaking off from the main bombardment.” Keogh ordered, rubbing his chin as he pondered the situation, uneasy.

It was exactly what Darek wanted. “Captain, the lead Galaxy class vessel and two Miranda classes are coming under the station.”

“Order the Anlor and its two escorts to take on the Galaxy class, the Praklar and the other Galor will take on each Miranda.” Darek ordered. He swiveled to face Ranad. “Is Gul Evat’s task force in position?”

“Yes it is sir.”

“Then order him to attack.” Darek swiveled back. The Anlor and its escorts took on the behemoth Odyssey at once, weapons rippling from all four ships. The Praklar bore down on its Miranda prey, firing down at the vessel, damaging its shields. The bridge shook as the Miranda class compensated. The Praklar fired again, breaking through the Miranda-class’s shields. The Praklar had the edge. “Target their engineering section.” Darek ordered. Before the Miranda could defend itself any further, it went up in flames. Almost at the same time, one of the Galor class warships attacking the Odyssey exploded. The Praklar moved in, targeting the portion where the shields where weakest and opening fire.

The Odyssey shook again, vibrantly. “We have casualties all decks!” The First Officer reported, gripping onto the railing as if for his life as the Odyssey twisted and turned. The second Miranda exploded. “We are out of our league!” Keogh shouted over the chaos. “Conn, take us out of here!”

“Captain, the task force is being taken from behind!” The First Officer barked.

“Then get us there, now!” Keogh couldn’t believe it. This close to victory, and he had been robbed of his victory once more. But he would give them a surprise they wouldn’t soon forget.

Gul Evat’s task force, numbering ten ships in total, took on the Federation vessels in a bloody skirmish. They had a slight disadvantage in numbers, but the surprise of a sudden attack from the rear had given them the edge to even things out. The sky was a chaos as ships of both sides opened fire on each other, moving, counter-moving, pursuing, avoiding, organizing and scattering as ships tore about the sky, unleashing their weapons on the nearest enemies in an uncertain chaos. The Odyssey swerved up majestically from the station to assist, but the Praklar, Anlor and two other Galor vessels followed on her heels. Darek watched the Odyssey as she got larger on screen, satisfied as the distances closed. “Gul, the Galaxy-class starship is separating!” Ranad reported in disbelief.

And so it was. The saucer and stardrive sections swerved and veered back into the combat, avoiding Darek’s task force and titling the battle in the Federation’s favour again. And Darek had expected as much. “Target the saucer section, and have my task force follow.” Darek barked.

“Yes sir.” Ranad replied. The four remaining ships flew towards the saucer section. As they flew through what was now a dwindling chaos, a Federation starship tore another Galor warship to pieces. The Stardrive section of the Odyssey saw what they were attempting and was hot on their tail. A shot lurched out from the vessel with full power tore the weary Galor to the rear to pieces, but a few shots from the Ghamok as it veered into place with its two escorts forced the stardrive section to withdraw. What was left of the Federation task force evaporated in beads of light as the ships went to warp. All that remained was the Praklar, the Anlor, and the surviving ships from Gul Evat’s task force. The stardrive section and saucer section, under heavy fire from both severed away in a circular pattern, and did a quick and risky reconnection with the Cardassians bearing down on them. And then, the ship itself was a bead, having jumped to warp. Darek paused, looking at the viewer where the Odyssey had been. They had won. But at what cost?

“Set a course back for Uptok Nor.” Darek ordered. “Glinn Ranad, instruct all ships to follow my lead.” The Galor warships approached the pathetic remains of the station.

“Scan them.” Darek snapped. Ranad’s hands darted across the panel. “I’m reading multiple hull breaches, most serious, but forcefields are holding the station together. Barely.”

“Hail them.” The screen changed from the view of Uptok Nor to Operations. Operations was a mess, destroyed machinery, melted consoles, and dead or dying Cardassians. In the centre of the screen was Glinn Omar, a long gash running across his face. He looked weak. “This is ... Glinn Oma-” Omar coughed mid-sentence, spewing blood from his mouth. He struggled back to face the viewer. “Glinn Omar.” He wheezed. “Get me Gul Daned.” Darek barked.

“Can’t.” Omar said, becoming dizzy. “He’s dead.” Omar, exhausted, collapsed onto the ground. Darek suppressed a smile. With Daned out of the way, he could assume command of the Third Order again.

What was left of it.

The airlock was forced aside. Cardassian medics and engineers poured into the station’s petty remains. A gaping hole stood in the centre of the Promenade. The rooms were littered with dead, and injured. Torol was found huddling behind a barstool, grabbing it for dear life. Merot was found still at work in the infirmary, organizing corpses with pathetic vigor. Most, if not all, the people still alive on the station were severely traumatized, or at least severely wounded. Despite this, Darek hadn’t felt so good since the destruction of the Wyoming. He was in command again. Darek restarted, with vigor, his continual reassignment program. He once again instilled fear in every Cardassian of the Third Order.

The emergency hatch burst open. Darek threw himself from there into Operations, the first time in the room as commander of the Third Order again. A medic had already been in here, and had taken Glinn Omar and the other wounded personnel out of the room. Darek paced across the remains, the smell of fire still present in the room, and the occasional sparkle from a busted circuit, with a crackling sound. Then he found what he was looking for. A bulkhead was hanging wide open from the ceiling. Part of it had fallen and rammed itself into the skull of a Cardassian. Darek bent over the corpse. The head was so badly shattered it was not recognizable, but the insignia was. Darek looked at Gul Daned’s corpse, finally allowing himself to smile at the crushed remains. He got up, and looked at the viewscreen. His viewscreen again. Then, he paraded to what was now his office. Still intact and undamaged from the bombardment, but full of the homely garbage Daned seemed to like. He forced the doors aside like an animal. He charged into the room, and threw the ornaments off the shelves, lopping them out of the room into Operations. It did not matter what people would think of such actions, but it felt good to wipe clean the stench of Daned from the room. The ornaments, one by one in a methodical attack by Darek, shattered on the floor of Operations. There were many fragments of precious and no doubt rare ornaments before he was finished. He tore down a painting by one of Cardassia’s better painters, and smashed it in two on his knee, and hurled that out as well. Then the room was Spartan, bleak, and his again. He sat down and pulled up the computer, and began to overlook his tactical data.

The pathetic few remains of the Starfleet task force regrouped, circling a planet and licking their wounds. The lights shattered out once again on the bridge of the Odyssey. Wordlessly, the First Officer typed at the tactical panel and brought them up, again. It was something to keep them occupied, but it had become irritating very quickly. A message had already been sent to Starfleet Command concerning their situation. “Captain, we are being hailed.” The First Officer reported. “From Starfleet Command.” Keogh nearly leapt out of his chair, and then paraded into a position between the CONN and Ops panels. “Onscreen.” He ordered, tugging at his suit. The screen flickered and the face of Admiral Hanson appeared. “Captain, we here at Starfleet have evaluated your position carefully, and we feel that there is but one option.”

Praklar to Gul Darek.” The voice of Tanar, a resent assignee to the Praklar, crackled over the com. Darek slammed his hand on his communicator to respond, disturbed from his observations. “Yes, Tanar, what is it?” Darek snapped. “There is a Federation vessel on a course straight for the station sir.”

“Alert all ships, I’m on my way.” Darek responded, severing the link and walking out of his office. He paused for a moment in Operations. It was ironic that, despite his self-promotion, he was going straight back to his last assignment. But Darek was not one to care for irony.

The door whooshed aside, and Darek padded into the bridge of the Praklar, eyeing all the personnel very carefully, giving them each a cold, Darekian stare. “Report.” He snapped as he did so. “There is one Starfleet vessel approaching the station. The shields are down and weapons are also powered down.” Tanar said. Darek then sat back in his chair. “Order all ships to standby to engage. And show me the vessel, full magnification.”

“Yes sir.” The screen flickered and an all too familiar Galaxy-class starship appeared, the scars still fresh. “Sir, they are hailing on a wide band, to all vessels.”

“On speakers.”

“This is Captain Keogh of the Federation Starship Odyssey to whoever is currently commanding the Third Order. We wish to discuss a cease fire.”

“Glinn, response channel. Tell all ships to still to go to battle alert, and lock weapons on the vessel, but not to fire unless I explicitly order them to do so, or if the ship takes aggressive action.”

“Yes sir. Response channel open.”

“This is the Commander of the Third Order.” Darek said over the speakers. “You want a cease fire, and I will arrange that now.” The face of Keogh flickered onto the screen. “Commander, we are transmitting visually. I suggest you do the same.” Darek nodded the affirmative to Tanar. “Captain, I am not a wagering man. This treaty will involve immediate Federation withdrawal from sovereign Cardassian space surrounding the Third Order, understood?”

“What precisely to you refer to as Cardassian space?”

“The Traven and all surrounding systems.”

“There are three Federation colonies in the area you maintain.”

“You may either move the civilians or they will be citizens of the Cardassian Union.” Darek stated.

“I cannot allow that.” Keogh responded defiantly.

“Would you rather I eliminate them?” Darek responded. “This isn’t a negotiation table, Captain. You can either take my offer or be destroyed.”

“You’d never be able to eliminate those settlers.” Keogh snapped back. “Your fleet is too weak.” Darek folded his hands and gave Keogh a menacing glare.

“You have already lost many battles based on that assumption. Would you like to lose more?” Darek bit back. Keogh faltered. He wasn’t sure if it was a bluff or not. The Cardassians did seem in pretty bad shape, but then, they had seemed in pretty bad shape just prior to this battle. Keogh’s gut was telling him that this commander could do the best with whatever resources he had. “Very well, Commander. We will begin the evacuation of those planets. Keogh out.” The channel severed and the Odyssey turned around, and jumped to warp with an additional speed Darek could only attribute to an anxiousness to leave. The war, at least in this sector, had been postponed. Now, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, he could rebuild...